Cow Elk and Calf: Story Behind the Photo

Sometimes when we’re traveling, we come across situations that can be unintentionally dangerous. It’s especially harrowing with wild animals because we don’t want to disturb them, or cause any harm to them or to us.

This photo of the cow elk and her calf was taken in the Alberta Rocky Mountains at dusk, a time that animals are frequently active. We were traveling slowly in our vehicle, enjoying the scenery on a mountain road and turning around a bend when we spotted them. The only trouble was that the cow elk was on one side of the road and the calf was high on a hill on the other. We’d accidentally come between them with our vehicle, and they looked panicked. During spring calving season, elks can be very dangerous in their protectiveness toward their calves. They’ve been known to ram cars and people if they feel the calf is in danger.

So, we brought our vehicle to a complete stop, trying to show the mother that we had no intention of interfering with her or her baby. We couldn’t back up because we might block them; we couldn’t move forward for the same reason. We were frozen for several minutes as they assessed us. Then the mother ran to join her calf, and the baby ran to join her mother. When they were both safely together high on top of a hill, we managed to get some awesome shots of the two.

Have you ever seen elk in the wild? How about a mother with her offspring?

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